Part 5

Nice Work If You Can Get It


They found Joyce bound and gagged in the old book cage, Buffy broke the gate open and untied her. Joyce was upset, but basically unharmed. Mother and daughter had a brief but intense reunion, then Giles cleared his throat.

"We'd best go. They could come back," Giles said. And right then, he thought, the entire crew couldn't fight off the three little kittens. The amulets are starting to fade, and the shadows are growing deeper by the minute. It's time to go.

They headed for the exit as quickly as they could manage, what with having to pick their way carefully through the carnage, trying not to step in the pools of black blood, or the slime, and not trip over the severed tentacles and demonic corpses that are already beginning to bloat as they decay with unnatural speed. Personally Xander preferred fighting vampires: poof, dust, no muss, no fuss. Alice stays with him, her smooth flank pressed against his leg, offering support. He thinks he detects worry in her yellow eyes, when she looks up at him now and again, but it's hard to read anything in those inhuman eyes.

Outside in the relatively safe night Xander sucked in the fresh air, and then realizes that something’s wrong with this picture. No van in the circle. Desperately scanning the parking lot and a brief instant of relief when he spots it 50 feet away...before he notices that it’s silent and dark, no sign of Willow or Cordy. By the marks on the weathered asphalt, it had been dragged there. They all run towards it, and close-up they can see there are fresh dents, and dark blood painting the battered fenders, front and rear. A side window has been shattered and there are splats and smears of *ick!* all over everything..

"Willow," Xander shouts. And two heads raise themselves cautiously to look out through the windshield and it's a good moment, good as the one when drowned Buffy turned her head and coughed up a gallon of filthy water, and lived.


"Demons," Cordelia explained later back at Giles' while she finished patching Angel up. Doctor Chase, on the job again. "They dragged the van out of the circle with a rope, tried to break in."

"Cordelia was great, she kept them from dragging us out for a long time, and after that she kept going forward, backing up… And when the van stalled out, she used the sprayer." Willow gushed. Cordelia accepted her praise graciously.

"Effective, but gross," Cordelia said wincing at the memory of liquidized demon flesh splattering the windshield, *yuck*. She frowned at Angel. "*You* need to learn to duck," she told him. The big dummy had taken a lot of damage. The duster would never be the same again, that was for sure and the upper half of his body was covered in thin scars as though he'd been whipped, she's not worried about those though, they're fading already. The deeper wounds gape palely, not bleeding, but not healing either. He was going to need blood for that. She glared at Spike, who'd bogarted the one pack of blood in Giles' fridge the minute they got into the apartment. He smirked back at her smugly unrepentant. She hoped he got food poisoning.

"There, that ought to hold it for now," Cordelia said applying the final strip of duct tape.

"Thanks," Angel says. He reaches for his shirt and winces as the tape pulls. He's so tired. The dark exhilaration of wreaking death and destruction, shared by soul and demon alike, has guttered out, leaving him bone-tired, and...hungry. He swallows, silently cursing the demon he can feel rising in response to the smell of human blood, his friends' blood, thickening the air. Uncomfortably aware of Buffy, in the corner only a few feet away where she's been fidgeting while Cordy patched him up.

Cordelia glances at Buffy as Angel stands. Must be nice to be the Slayer, she thinks. At least the super-strength part, she'll pass on the premature death, thank you very much. Unlike the rest of the crew, living and undead, Buffy has come through it all nearly unscathed, what few bruises and marks she collected are already fading. Even her hair looks good, considering. And yet still she's got that wounded puppy look around the eyes. Cordelia feels like a worn out sneaker and knows she looks worse; she really wants to say something, but the whole becoming a better person thing must be for real, cause she doesn't.

"I'm going to freshen up," Cordelia tells Angel. "Then we can leave." She disappeared into the downstairs bathroom. Angel looked at Buffy, finally, and can't look away. He could see the pain in her eyes, worry, for him, and under it all, the same need he feels stretching between them, an unbreakable chain. It's all too much, Buffy, the haze of blood...

"I need to get out of here," Angel said. Buffy nods.

"Patio?" she said.

Thank fuck for that, Spike thinks as he watches them go out together. Having both the Slayer and the Pouf in the same room was more than he could take. Especially if they were about to start driveling on about their own true love, and they were.

Yes folks, it was raging hormones day here at White Hat Central. The Wanker had sloped off upstairs with Joycie as soon as they got in. He could *smell* them from here. Wouldn't be surprised if the chandelier started swinging any minute. He hoped neither of them had heart conditions, or it was likely to get ugly…which might be a bit of a giggle, come to think of it.

He took another swallow of Giles' scotch, yeah, that really hit the spot. He was feeling pretty good right about now. Nice bit of violence, tearing nasty little demons apart bare-handed had been just what he needed. He'd taken some damage, but the blood, ice cold and foul as it was, had done him a world of good. To hell with the Dark Knight, let him get his own. Could do with more, though. The smell of blood in the room is tantalizing and frustrating. Bloody shame, all that just going to waste.

The werewolf's wounds smell especially tasty. Poor red-headed bugger was sitting all alone at the table, forgotten by Willow. The witch had hastily patched him up, and then left to hover near the brat, Xander. The boy sagged in the chair like an old man, shirtless and shivering while Miss Kitty took care of his wounds. The better for him to see the deep gash in the boy's back, slowly oozing the red stuff. Imagined putting his tongue into it, just a taste... Not a fucking chance they'd let him do it though.

"I could cast a healing spell," he heard Willow say. Alice looked up from her careful dabbing of Neosporin®, and tsk, that wasn't a very friendly look she gave the witch, was it? She looked towards Xander, letting him make the decision.

"No," Xander said wearily. "No magic," his head drooped again.

"Think maybe you ought to take your boyfriend home," Alice suggested. "He looks 'bout worn out." Spike smirked as Willow's face went blank for a long moment. Then she turned and rejoined Oz.

Spike had another drink while he watched the little witch fussing guiltily over her lover. From the misery on his face, he wasn't buying it. Nothing worse in the world than having your lover betray you, he thought feeling an unfamiliar twinge of...sympathy. He shook his head impatiently, and tossed the last of his drink down his throat. The bottle was empty. It was time he was leaving. For one thing he needed to find himself a new crypt. And he could feel that insinuating itch at the back of his brain that meant that Orexis wanted him. Lucky for him it was so near dawn, she'd just have to wait.


Giles leaned out onto the railing of the tiny balcony to his room, and took a deep breath of the fresh air. Allowing himself to revel for one moment in the fact that he was alive. That they had all made it. That they'd won. The stars were still bright, but he could feel the faint changes in the night that signaled the coming day. The dawn that they had helped secure.

Behind him he was pleasantly aware of Joyce, fast asleep in his bed. The taste of her mouth lingered pleasantly in his. Snogging at their age, he thought, smiling. Tonight they were both a little too tired to do much more than kiss, but tomorrow he planned to make it up to her.


Outside on the patio, Angel looked up at the sky, grateful to be out in the clean air. He snuck a look at Buffy. He could feel the warmth and light of her presence in the cool air. The flame he wanted to throw himself into careless of the consequences.

Buffy looked up at Angel, glad for the darkness that hid the worst of the damage. She'd wanted to cry when she saw him clearly, after the battle, covered in blood and demon stuff, it was all she could do now, to not take hold of him and try and kiss the pain away. She wanted to hold him, wanted his arms around her, to feel him cool and solid against her. It hurt so much to see the pain in his face, he was so pale...Oh!

"You're hungry," Buffy said, which wasn't what she'd meant to say, but she knew the signs. Angel shrugged.

"A little. It's OK. I've got supplies back at the mansion. Cordelia went shopping for me." Buffy stared at him in disbelief.

"Cordelia? Shopping for someone else?" Angel half-smiled.

"She's grown," he said. Silence dropped uneasily between them again.

"So," she tried again, "How are you? I mean, how's LA."

"Busy lately, lots of demon activity," he said, trying to match her light tone. "How's college?"

"Different from high school. More homework, less raw angst." For most people, anyway.

"And how are you doing?"

"O.K.," she said starting to lie, and suddenly she couldn't do it. " I'm not. I miss you."

"Buffy...we can't..." Angel stepped back, though she hadn't moved.

"I know. But this isn't working either," she said sadly. She waited for him to pick up his lines, to tell her about their destiny, their duty, how they had no choice but to stay apart, even if it killed them.

"You're right," he said, surprising her. "Cordelia's vision - I don't think I was sent here just to deal with the Capteniel. You didn't really need me for that. It wasn't just the demons the PTB were concerned about."

"Oh. So what are we going to do?"

"I don't know. We need to talk. Can we get together?" Angel said.

"Yes," Buffy said.

Giles watched silently from above as they made arrangements to meet at the mansion, tomorrow night at 8. Then they went back inside, carefully maintaining their distance from each other. Giles remained where he was, thinking long after they'd gone. No longer smiling.


Since the van was still back at the school, Angel offered Oz and Willow a ride home. Cordelia dropped them both off at Willow's dorm. Oz had wanted to go home but Cordelia flatly refused to make another stop.

"Sorry, it's almost dawn, and a certain somebody needs to get inside. Bye, bye." She slammed the door leaving them standing there like strangers waiting for the same bus. Willow turned to Oz, expecting Oz to say something about Cordelia's transformation into a real live girl still being a little rough around the edges, but he didn't say anything. He looked really tired, she realized, angry slashes standing out starkly against his pale complexion. Poor Oz, he needed rest and snuggles. She needed to rest too, but she didn't know how she was going to be able to sleep. She had so much to think about, so much to do. She was going to have to go down to LA for supplies

Oz slowly followed Willow up the stairs. He felt worn out, his body felt like it had been stuck in a tumble dryer for hours. Willow didn't seem tired at all. She bounced up the stairs, invigorated by something; he suspected it had to do with what Giles had said to her when he asked to speak with her privately just before they left.

His lover, his mate and she's oblivious to his mood, to him. He loves her more than his life, how can she not see how much pain he's in? Why can't she sense the wolf eyeing the vulnerable nape of her neck as they climb the stairs. Till death do them part. The wolf does not believe in divorce.

In the room, Willow throws herself onto her bed, she's puzzled when Oz lies down on the other bed and closes his eyes. Willow's roommate Carla, has a boyfriend with his own place which is where she was now and most nights. The dorm room was basically a cover for her family's benefit. Worked for Willow.

"So," Willow said perching on the edge of the bed. "Do you want to hear the news? I'm so excited."

"What does Giles want?" he said, his eyes still shut.

"He wants me to research Angel's curse. See if there's something that can be done. So Buffy and Angel can be together."


"Giles wants me to see if the, 'happiness clause" can be like, modified, or deleted."

"Oh," he wasn't really surprised, somehow.

"Yeah, and I've already done a teensy bit of research…just now and then. But the whole Spike love-spell thing kinda put me off it. Also I felt like I ought to concentrate on de-ratting poor Amy. But I guess Giles thinks I can handle it now cause I have been practicing and I'm much better now with the control and all…"

"Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"Yeah. I mean it would be better if Angel wasn't, you know, undead and all but they're true lovers, like us, it's just *wrong* for them to be apart." He hears her leave her bed, and come over to sit down on the edge of his bed. Feels her hand hovering softly over his head.

"Like us, true lovers," he says his voice low and bitter. Willow has an image of, ears flat, yellow eyes gleaming, lip curled to show gleaming fangs...and yanks her hand out of danger.

"Oz, what's wrong?"

Oz opens his eyes, turns his head toward her. Have his eyes always been this pale, she wonders, and this cold. "I saw you tonight, with Xander. You were all over him."

"What?! He was hurt. I was just trying to help!"

"Alice was helping him. He didn't need you, I did."

"Why are you being like this?" she says, and he can tell that her wounded innocence is no act, but it doesn't help, makes it worse in fact.

"Because I'm sick of it!" Oz shouted. "Sick of watching you watching him! I can smell you getting wet when you're around him."

"Oz," her voice breaks, and it hurts to hear it even through his own pain. "I love you. I know I messed up once, but I'd never, ever do anything to hurt you again."

"You still want him, and I can't stand it." Oz said rolling away from her and standing up. Willow gets out of his way. Oz's shadow against the wall seems larger than it should be.

"Where are you going?" Willow begged.

"I need time to think, and I can't do it around you," he told her flatly.

"Oz, please!" The door shut behind him, and she was alone. She threw herself onto her bed and began to cry. It's so unfair, she hasn't *done* anything.


Home at last. Alice thought as she helped Xander inside and upstairs to the bedroom. He moved very slowly and carefully, like her Uncle Joe when the rheumatism was troubling him. She could tell that his wounds were beginning to tighten up on him, poor baby. He sat down on the edge of the bed and passively let her undress him. There was a look in his eyes when he looked at her that she didn't like.

She folded back the covers and tried to get him to lie down, but he came to life suddenly and grabbed hold of her hand. He ran his hands up her legs, under the loose shift, running his hands wondering over her unmarred skin. Pulled away and looked at her with eyes full of hurt and betrayal.

"Nothing. Not a mark," he said quietly. "I was so worried about you," he whispered. "It was just a joke to you. You were never in any danger." There was anger as well as hurt in his eyes.


"I don't really know anything about you, do I? Who the hell are you really? Is your name really Alice? Or is it Lucy?"

"Oh baby." She said sadly, the sour taste of impending loss rising in her throat. "I'm sorry, but the last man who learned my secrets locked me in a cage." Knowing it was a feeble excuse even as she spoke it. He didn't let her get away with it.

"I'm not him!" He shouted, his hands clenching bruisingly over hers for a moment. Then he let her go, turned away. "I knew it was too good to be true."

She looked down at him, into his dark, hurt eyes and felt something melt away.

"Xander, I love you. And my name is Alice; it's always been Alice. Ask me anything. Was I in any danger? Hell yes."

"But I saw you get hurt, and you changed and you were all better."

She nodded. "If I can change I can heal almost any wound. But cold iron keeps me from the change..."

"I wondered why you were stuck in that cage," he interrupted. "I wondered why you didn't just change, and yell for help…"

"All steel construction. Ilya wasn't taking any chances."

"And you're sure you're not Lucy?" But this time the question was teasing, not in earnest.

"I don't know who the hell Lucy is..." she hesitated a moment, then went on "But she's probably a relative. It looks like she messed with Angel's head something fierce, but that's not my problem as long as the big undead bastard stays away from me." Her hand caressed his cheek. "Do you want to go to St. Louis and meet my family?"

He grinned; that wide, wonderful grin that melted the ice at her core. "Hell no. Or at least...not yet."

"But I have one question."


"Come here and let me whisper in your ear," he said.

And a little bit later on, Xander thrusts into her, over and over, relentless, as if he's trying to burrow into her, get under her skin. She matches his thrusts with her own, trying to lose herself in the delightful friction of his hip grinding just right against her clit, trying to believe, that it's all right again between them again.


Orexis stood at the window and reluctantly reached for the cord to close the drapes. She loved the way the sun poured into the room, filling it with golden light. Unfortunately, the Dickson boy was practicing baskets in their driveway again and the repetitive Twank! Twank! Twank! of the ball hitting the concrete was doing nothing for Orexis' concentration. She stood for a long moment, watching him lovingly, so young and tender, baby fat jiggling slightly as he ran back and forth with his ball. Twank! Twank! Twank! She had very special plans for young master Dickson after her investiture. He looked up and she waved once before drawing the drapes. She returned to the table and the figures set out on it.

She was quite proud of them, had carefully carved them herself of marzipan, painted and baked them. She put her chin on her hand, as she pondered her strategy.

The little red witch, Willow Rosenberg. Buffy's best friend. Judging from last night she had more power there than Orexis had suspected. It was always unwise to cast a spell on a witch in any case; and even if it worked, it might draw unwelcome attention, and she needs to continue in obscurity for just a little bit longer.

She picked up the Oz figure that stood close to the witch and studied it thoughtfully. The werewolf held Willow's heart, if he were to betray or abandon her…now there was an idea. Smiling, she moved the figure to the far side of the table, away from the others. Yes. That was a viable solution to that problem.

Next, Alice the leopard, this poppet was a recent addition and truthfully not really up to her usual standards: a simple china figurine, purchased from a gift shop. But needs must when the devil drives... The shapechanger intrigued her, she was a new factor impinging on her plans but so far she hadn't made much difference. It stalked protectively near to the dark-haired boy, Xander Harris. He should have died last night, but in the end he was of little importance, and as long as he and Alice were together, he wouldn't have much time for his friend the Slayer. True, her mouth watered for the power contained in the shapechanger's skin, blood, bone, meat, but patience was her primary virtue after all.

Her eyes skimmed over the figures of Giles and Joyce, annoying symbols of her first failure. At least their little love affair meant that they should be less available to Buffy now. It would have to do until her other plans came to fruition. Not long now, the solstice was only a few weeks away.

She smiled at the next figure indulgently and let it be. Spike, her sharp-toothed little ermine. No reason to worry about him, he was hers, utterly, irrevocably.

And finally, there's Angel Buffy's true love. She lifts the little figure, staring at the heavy-browed face modeled with the help of a photograph her friends in LA had sent. He represented the biggest threat to her plans. Her faithful Spike had told her about how they looked at each other. She agreed with him that it was doubtful that the curse would keep them away from each other much longer. The souled meddler needed to be dealt with, permanently. Fortunately she knows exactly how to do it. She smiles. It's poetic, really.


His eyes roam over the symphony of curves that converge at the dark triangle of pubic hair. Her arms are bound behind her, thrusting her heavy breasts forward for his attention. He reaches out and rolls a large nipple between his black-nailed fingers. Gorgeous, he thinks as stolen blood rushes to his cock, leaving him a little dizzy. Sharp white teeth gleam between her wide, wet lips. Yellow just beginning to bleed into her darkly contemptuous eyes.

He mauls her lips, forcing his tongue into her mouth, staring fascinated into those marigold eyes so like and unlike a demon’s. Feeling her hot breath on his cold tongue sends another rush of blood south. Blood, he can smell it running hot and sweet under her smooth skin as his hands wander down her back. She shivers as his cold fingers probe the cleft of her magnificent ass, growls a warning and his tongue shreds itself on suddenly carnivorous teeth.

He pulls away, his true face surfacing, the demon growls its own warning. She stares up at him, unimpressed. He pushes her down onto the bed and straddles her, pinning her flanks between his leather-clad knees, feels another low growl rumble through her chest.

He cups her breasts, one in each hand, feeling the soft weight of them, the delicate skin yielding under his talons. He drops his head to one breast to lick away the little drops of blood welling up from the marks. So good. Human, but seething with the power of her impending change. He sucks in a nipple, rolls it against the roof of his mouth with his tongue, and hears her gasp, feels her heart begin, finally, to beat faster as he suckles; with fear or arousal, he doesn't care which.

His other hand goes down then, burrowing between her legs, but in that position he finds he can only just brush his fingertips across the delicate lips of her sex. He moves off her and pushes her up towards the head of the bed.

She offers no resistance as he kneels on the bed and spreads her legs, but she hisses when he slips two fingers inside, probing her slowly. He pulls his fingers out and puts them in his mouth, tastes her. Grins. He can hear her heart accelerating, smell her excitement growing. He bends down and flicks his tongue across her clit, teasing. Her back arches, she whines in frustration. She lifts her head to glare at him, yellow eyes blazing. The bones of her face are beginning to shift, her control is slipping. Enough preamble then, time to move on to the main event.

He spreads her wide and pulls her up onto his lap, and letting her feel his erection lying heavy on her belly, him feeling her cunt wet against him. She grunts, and closes her eyes as her arms come around his neck. He lifts her and impales her on his cock, and feels sharp claws break the skin as she clutches at him. She is so hot, engulfing him. Her blood pounding through her, so close, he jerks her head roughly to one side and takes it. Blood fills his mouth, sweeping away the last of his control, he thrusts into her, hard and fast as he drains her life....

He comes quick and hard, his orgasm sharp as a shard of glass. She twists violently in his grasp and pulls free, spilling him off the bed and onto the floor. He hears a coughing roar and scrambles up to face her.

The panther stalks him. There was a bright smear of blood on her neck, but no wound under it. Mad yellow eyes, porcelain white fangs in red mouth, she leaps, and he sidesteps, catches her by the neck and gives it one sharp twist, glorying at that wonderful sensation/sound as the spine cracks. He grins as the dead cat slides to the floor...

Applause, slow and mocking, from behind him. Spike turns to face his mistress making a deliberately overdone bow… and falters when he sees how pleased she is with him. Sees her reaching out for him with her arms, her jaws open wide, ruby eyes gleaming...

Spike woke with a snarl. The pleasure of his orgasm has drained into the darkness, leaving him with a damp crotch and the stink of his own fear thick in the crypt. He can't even fucking *dream* without the bitch interfering. If it would help he would open his throat with his own claws, bleed out on the floor, disembowel himself, drive a stake through his own heart. But he wasn't certain that would be enough to free him. He was well and truly buggered.


At 4 p.m. the shop called to tell Oz that the van was ready. He'd finished packing by then. Left a note and the keys on the kitchen counter for Devon to find when he came back. He slung his duffel over one shoulder, picked up his guitar case and left the apartment without a backwards look.

He walked the six blocks to Tom's Auto shop. "Hey, Oz." Tom said, stepping out from underneath a Lexus he had up on the lift. Tom was an old friend from shop class. A fellow Nirvana fan long before, and after, it was cool to be one. "Going somewhere?" he asked after they’d settled up.

"Yeah, need to get away for awhile. Get my head clear."

"Cool. You're lucky man, wish I was going with you."

"No. You don't."

Oz drove through Sunnydale, hunched down, knowing he was a fucking coward, scared to death he’d see her. Knowing that all his resolve would evaporate if he saw her. If she looked at him again and begged him not to go.

In the end he made it safely past the familiar houses, the stores, downtown, the burnt-out school, UC Sunnydale, the ever-expanding cemeteries. It felt good to reach the freeway, to grind the van up to 60 and feel Sunnydale with all its memories good and bad falling behind him. Ahead of him lay the open road, with its endless possibilities, offering time and freedom to think. The shadows stretched ahead of him as he took the turnoff for the old section of Rte 66 that led east through the hills to Interstate 5. It was the longer route, but he’d never been this way and always wanted to. Anyway, now that he was out of Sunnydale he was in no hurry.

The tire blew about 10 miles down the old highway. Oz fought the wheel and managed to steer it to the shoulder. He heard another ominous pop as the van skidded to a halt a few inches from the hillside. He sat there for a long moment while the last arc of sun slipped behind the hills, waiting for his heart to stop trying to pound its way out of his chest.

He stood in the cooling evening looking at two flat tires. He was kind of surprised. He could have sworn they weren’t that bad, but front left and right rear were both shredded and he only had one spare. Fuck, what was he going to do now? Go back? He couldn't face that. He got back in the van and collected his duffel, guitar, and the picture of Willow he had taped above the sun visor. He locked the van and started to walk east.

Evening filled the valley with purple shadows. The moon isn’t up yet, Oz knowing without having to see it that it is still 20-odd days before it will be full, but the wolf is with him anyway, alert to the soft sounds of animals moving in the brush. Occasionally cars pass, but Oz doesn't bother trying to hitch. It's 10 miles to Purdyville. He figures he can make it in a couple of hours. There was a Greyhound station there and he's carrying enough cash to take them up on their offer: $99 one-way to anywhere they go.

Bright light from behind startled him, too close…as a car drove up onto the shoulder behind him. Not good, he thought as he jumped out of the way. One look -- big black car stopping, doors opening, letting hooded figures and a familiar unwelcome scent into the night. Way beyond not good. They drop their robes and their human disguise as soon as they’re clear of the car. The Capteniel sprout up like black mushrooms and turn towards him, and maybe now’s not the time to wonder how they do that, without eyes. Cause it’s just him here, no Buffy, no Angel, no Alice…just him. Oz turned and ran into the brush.

The wolf knows all about running through the dark. About being hunted too, so Oz surrenders to it. Lets it control his desperate run through the dry bushes and prickly grass, while Oz tries to use his brain, tries to think of something that will save him, but there’s nothing. The wolf smells water, and runs towards it blindly, hearing the crush and crash of brush being destroyed by the demon’s careless passing. He looks back as he slides down the streambank in a shower of gravel, but in the dark, it's hard to tell shadow from shadow.

A silver glint between a pair of boulders, the faint sound of ripples running over gravel: means he's found the stream. If he can find a deep enough pool to hide in, the water will carry his scent away, hide him until daylight evens the odds a little. He splashes into the shallow water, headed downstream and then feels more than sees a shadow fall over him. He dove to the side, but he's not quick enough. His world turns upside down as tentacles, slimy and strong as woven steel, snatch him up. He struggles, knowing it's a waste of time as it slide/walks back up the side of the wash, to the car.

Shit. It's the last person he'd expected to see: Spike, leaning against the car smoking and looking bored, and Oz knows better than to think he’s the cavalry. The Capteniel lets go of Oz and shrinks to its dayform while Oz hits the ground hard. Before he can think about running, or fighting, anything, the others are on him. They handcuff him, and hold him. Spike grins at Oz's shocked expression.

"Yeah, it was a bit of a shock to me too. Luckily, they don't seem to hold grudges." Spike turned away. "Put him in the back. One of you lot can drive."

Spike climbed into the car beside Oz, resting his arm casually on the back of the seat as he finished his cigarette. He tossed his lit butt into the dry weeds as the car reversed and pulled back onto the highway. He reached over and pulled Oz upright, leaning in close till they're face to face. His irises are thin blue rings around huge pupils as he inhales the smell of the blood leaking from the fresh scratches and cuts Oz collected trying to get away.

"Lovely," he hisses, his face shifting. Oz knowing he can smell his fear, tries to fight it down as Spike presses him back against the seat with hard strong hands till they're face to face, and too damned close. The vampire’s skin radiates a chill stink of nicotine, whiskey, and death. He opens his mouth, and his tongue paints a cold trail along Oz’s forehead.

"Fuck," Oz says. Spike stops, and smirks.

"Maybe later," he says. The car raced towards Sunnydale as he resumed licking the blood off the struggling boy.


Buffy hurried along the main mallway in a state of mild panic. It was already past five and she was going to be late. Late, for her first date in how many months with Angel.

Not her fault: first she'd woken up late, just in time for lunch. Then she had to help Mom clean up the mess back at the house. Giles had begged off, mumbling something about research and Buffy hadn't missed the hurt look mom gave him. Or the way she perked up and got all flushed when he whispered something into her ear and la-la-la-la, she's not going there in this lifetime.

So it was after 3 before she had a chance to look in her closet and realized she didn't have anything to wear. Nothing. So she'd jumped in the Buffymobile and vroomed off to the mall. Blitzed through every shop in the Galleria until she found the perfect (or the closest thing to perfect she was going to find in Sunnydale) dress and now she had less than an hour to get home, shower, do her hair, etc., etc. before she was supposed to meet with Angel. She was never going to make it.

"Buffy?" the beautiful voice stopped her dead in front of the Java Joint. She knew that voice. She turned to see Professor Orexis, Sylvia sitting at a cafe table, smiling. Thought for a moment again just how pretty she was, for a professor, an older woman as she smiled back. Guilty check...had she ditched her class today? Saturday, so no problem there. And their conference on her extra-credit project was next Wednesday, so ok there too.

"Prof… Sylvia. Hi," she said.

"You look like you could use a break," Orexis said. "Join me in a cappuccino?"

"Uh, no, I'm kinda in a hurry…" Buffy said uncomfortably.

"Ah, a date?" her eyes twinkling. Buffy blushed.

"Yeah," she admitted.

"Well then, don't let me keep you. I'll see you Wednesday."

"Yeah, bye." Orexis' watched Buffy moving through the other shoppers like a quarterback. So pretty, she thought.


Angel looks good. True, with that body he would probably look good in a lime-green leisure suit, but still, more than usually gorgeous this evening. He's wearing the new silk shirt that she'd gone out to buy for him, in guess what non-color. He's nervous as hell, and it's unnerving when someone big as him starts pacing the floor in his size 14 Doc Martens. It's like having one of those huge Budweiser horses in the living room, it's a big living room, but not that big.

"Settle down, it's not like it's your first date," she tells him. He just looks at her. "Ok. Fine, just trying to help." Cordelia went into the kitchen, where she's less likely to be trampled and starts making herself dinner. Grimacing at the pinkish stain in the mug that he's left in the sink. They're out of blood, again, it took a lot to heal him last night. Oh well, a visit to the butchers would give her something to do. She couldn't wait to get back to LA. She even missed Wesley.

Buffy, he thinks. Buffy, Buffy, Buffy. This is probably a really bad idea. They're supposed to talk, what is there to talk about? They can't be together… and it seems like they can't be apart either. Willow had told Cordelia about Buffy's lack of interest in …anything, really. He'd already noticed how thin she'd become over the last few months, but the near-misses, the general listlessness... "It's like she just doesn't care. She patrols, she slays, but she's not really interested. And sooner or later there's going to be a monster that is really interested, and she's going to get killed."

He knows exactly what that feels like, the hollow feeling as he fights yet another monster, rescues another helpless victim, just going through the motions. He's missed her so much. The memory of her body their one and only time together. The way she felt, long hard muscles under silken skin, her slender body moving with his, her breasts, her face, so small in his hands...

"I love you," he whispered. "I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop."

"Me, me, too. I can't either," she told him, and sometimes the memory of that sweet, doomed kiss was the only thing that kept him going.

The doorbell rings, and he reacts like it's the trump of doom; freezes in place and looks at her with those big brown eyes. Cordelia rolls her eyes and goes to answer the door. It's Buffy of course. Looking a little nervous in what Cordelia has to admit is a helluva dress. Red velvet. Short. Clingy in all the good ways. Cordelia recognizes the style.

"That's from Angie's, nice. I remember it from a few months back," she says.

"Hi Cordelia," Buffy says. "Angel. Hi."

"Buffy," he says.

"Sorry I'm late."

"It's OK," they stand, just looking at each other, and in the light of their blazing regard Cordelia feels her own sense of self fading, feels herself reduced from Queen C to a small town girl out of her depth in the big city. She's really grateful when they turn away from each other, say goodnight to her, and leave. She stands alone in the shadowy mansion after they're gone, thinking chocolate, that was what she needed, chocolate and lots of it.


Sitting out on Bucci's terrace, Angel played with his salad and listened to Buffy babble nervously about her classes, her professors, Willow's spells, Xander's new girlfriend and everything but the reason they were sitting there. He watched every move she made, every bite, and every swallow. The way he used to watch her sleep. Sitting there by her bed, night after night, memorizing every detail of her face, her body, her scent.

She turns her head, and for the first time he can see the ugly scar his teeth had left in her neck. It’s faded and silvery now, courtesy of Slayer metabolism, and if you didn’t know, you might not even identify it for what it was.

It’s a sharp reminder of all the things they hadn't talked about. He knows she thinks he doesn't remember biting her, feeding on her, but he does. He remembers her words. "Drink me, it’s the only way." How he’d refused, despite the painful delirium of the poison destroying his body.

"No. – Get away," somehow getting to his feet, and tried to walk away from her. He remembers the shock, and the pain as she attacked him, kept hitting him, hurting him until finally the demon manifested in self-defense. He remembers the smell of her blood as she pressed his face into the crook of her neck and the way the overwhelming presence of her blood, the instinctive knowledge that it would end his pain, had broken his last resistance. He'd bitten her, torn into her throat and pulled her onto the floor, held her down as he drank and drank at the wondrously vital flow of Slayer vitality, of *Buffy* salty sweet in his mouth...

He never knew what had stopped him. The PTB, a day late and a dollar short as usual? His soul? Or was he simply sated enough to pull away while she still lived.

And it's more than a memory now. The smell of her blood, an arms-length away hits him like a physical blow. He's hard as a rock, and the demon is pouring all the memories of the rush, the power of her blood...

"Angel?" She's looking at him, a little half-smile on her face, love shining out of her eyes…

He wants her. Wants to take her now on the stupid little metal table. Use his body, to seal his claim to her body, her soul, her blood…

Most of all, her blood.

Oh God, how could he be so fucking stupid, thinking he could be with her, ever. He stood up hastily, her eyes flick towards his crotch and he knows she's noticed his erection. She smiles uncertainly. God, the smell of her... He leaned towards her, and she responds, reaching out for his hand. Her eyes, shining with love, and complete acceptance. It would be so easy, all he had to do was ask, and she'd let him put his mouth, just there, his tongue flickering over the slight imperfection and hold her still as his face changed, his fangs sinking into the flesh, the blood....

He recoiled and jumped to his feet, knocked over his chair in his haste to get away from her. "I can't," he said to her shocked face. He turned, took two steps, vaulted over the iron railing and ran into the night.


Spike stood looking at Oz. He'd fastened him securely to Orexis' 'play' table as per orders. The boy was glaring at him over the gag, his eyes glittering angrily. Spike licked his lips; he could still taste the boy's blood. He wondered, more than idly, what she was going to do with him. If she were after a wolf-skin rug she'd have to keep him alive for almost a month. He leaned closer, fascinated by the veins bluely visible under the pale skin. Imagined slitting the vein open with a sharp fingernail and catching the red fountain in his mouth, good to the last drop.

"Spike," Orexis said, her gently mocking tone shattering his reverie. "Mustn't touch." Bitch, he thought. He looked up, his face carefully blank. She was halfway down the stairs. She was looking quite glamorous tonight, he thought dispassionately. She has on a floor-length gown of deep blue satin. The full golden length of her hair flowed over her shoulders and down her back. If he hadn't known what she was he might have fancied her. Spike can smell the boy's fear and confusion as Orexis came to inspect her prize.

He was small, but well made she thought as she put her hand over his heart to feel it jump inside its narrow cage, ran a hand along his arm, his neck, his face. The idea of the werewolf, all that rage and violence emerging from this compact package pleased and titillated her. She wanted to see that, at least once.

"Hello there Oz," she caressed his cheek. "I'm Sylvia. We're going to be good friends, I hope." She had beautiful eyes, he thought, but the things he saw moving at the back of them made the man want to scream, and the wolf curled itself into a furry ball. Oz stared at her. Pretty sure he'd never seen her before. She looked a little like his 3rd grade teacher, Miss Christensen,

She kissed him on the forehead, and then to Spike's surprise, let him be and turned her attention to him.

"Did you have any problems?" she asked.

"Piece of cake," he said, showing his teeth, whiter flash in his pale face.

"You left the note?"

"On her bed." A nice touch he’d thought of himself. "She'll cry a fucking river."

"Vulnerable do you think?"

Spike shrugged. "Yeah, definitely. Easy pickings."

"So, Spike dear, do you think you'd be up to the job?"

"What?" Spike's expression shifted from confusion, to a harsh kind of pleasure. "You want me to..."

Out of the corner of her eye, Orexis watched the boy go still as he caught on. She admired the way tension made his ribs stand out, the poetry of his lips moving in fruitless protest around the gag.

"Remove our little witch Willow from play by giving her something to think of besides the Slayer. Can you do it? How long has it been since you were with a human female?"

Spike grinned, his mind going back to a favorite if not recent memory. *There hadn't been that much blood, in the end, he and Angelus had drunk most of it; just a small pool beneath her hips, a few random smears on her mutilated breasts, a thread of bloody spittle dangling from her abused mouth...*

"Been awhile," he admitted. Orexis’s smile was entirely too understanding.

"And did she call you afterwards? Or would that have required a Ouija board?" Spike shrugged, unrepentant. "I want the little witch seduced, not traumatized," Orexis told him, steel showing through the velvet and sugar of her usual disguise for a moment.

"Just 'cause I haven't done it recently, doesn't mean I forgot how," he protested. "I can handle the chit. I’ve talked my way under more skirts than you’ve had hot dinners."

"Hmmm. Perhaps, but I'd feel better if we rehearsed a bit. Come here." Her tone of negligent command was like a sharp fishhook in his heart, but he obeyed.

Oz sagged in his restraints and watched quietly as she sat down on a red velvet Victorian loveseat, incongruous in the white-on-white sterility of this place. Her next words chilled him to the bone.

"I'll be Willow, shall I?" She closed her eyes and sagged forward, letting her hair obscure her face and began to cry as though her heart had been torn out. Spike stood and watched her and there was something in his face like…hesitation for a moment. Then it passed. Oz watched him resume his normal cockiness and set his shoulders; then he moved to stand behind her.

The crying had put him off for a moment. Dru cried, but never like this. She wailed, she raged, but she never sobbed, and Spike had never known the human her who could have wept tears. Orexis tears smelled wet and salty, altogether authentic. "Sssh, sssh, what's the matter Pet?" He said. The words echoed in his head disturbingly. How many times had he said those words to Dru, and where was she now?

"Oz. He, he's gone!" She sobbed. "Left me..."

To Spike’s ear, the imitation of the little witch's voice was note-perfect. He wondered what Oz thought. He wished he could see the boy’s face, but he knew he couldn’t spare the attention. He needed all his focus as he bent closer to faux-Willow and caught the sharp scent of vinegar, not fresh skin and wholesome herbs. He suppressed the shivers of fear it induced, made himself ignore it, as he placed his hands on her shoulders. "That’s all right, he’s a fool, you’ll be all right Luv, just wait and see," he soothed as he began to massage her shoulders, slowly easing his hands under the robe as he continued to murmur inanities non-stop. She shivered at the first touch of his cold fingers on her bare skin, but didn’t protest. He kept talking, taking his time, feeling the tension evaporate under his skilled fingers. His face close to her neck. So close, the temptation to wrench her head back and twist that swan neck till it snapped is nearly overwhelming; but even the thought sent warning shivers of pain through his flesh. Fool me once...he chided himself. Get back to business. He eased his hands further down her back. The sobbing stopped.

"Spike," Willow's voice quavered, (oh, she was good) "What are you doing?" He stopped.

"I'm sorry," he said and took his hands away. "I just.... I'll go." He stepped back, to give her a good view of the expression of yearning set carefully on his face when she twisted round to look up at him, eyes gleaming through her hair.

"No, don't, don’t go," she whispered. "Please."

He took her in his arms and kissed her. She clung to him, trembling, warm, her body soft under his hands and this time she does smell human, like Willow. He felt his teeth sharpen at the thought of Willow-blood, she had always smelled tasty to him. In his arms, she sighed, and pinched him hard just above the navel.

"If your control isn't better than that," Orexis murmured in her own voice, "perhaps we should abandon the project." Spike barely succeeded in keeping the snarl he felt from showing on his face.

"Sorry," he said. He lowered his mouth to her throat again, softly caressing her with his lips, his tongue, keeping his teeth well away. Stealthily, he moved his hands down to her breasts, gently circling her tiny nipples with his thumbs. He felt her shiver and press back into him; felt nice if a little too warm. His cock sprang to life as it made contact with her tight little ass. His hands ran down the length of her body, one hand snaking through the slit in the dressing gown between her thighs. He was remembering the steps now to the old, old dance, the gentle touches, the soft murmurs of wanting breathed into her eager ears, all focused to the end of propelling her toward the bedroom, the waiting bed.

That moment of truth as he laid her down on the bed, looked into her anxious, wanting eyes; schooling his own face into an expression of utter sincerity.

"Spike?" she questioned. The voice and the tone were so perfect he could almost see Willow's features floating ghostlike over her own.

"I love you, Willow," he said. She smiled, and threw back her head in surrender. Spike bent his head to her soft white throat and put his mouth over the pulse, and kissed it with infinite care. He heard Oz’s muffled howls of rage and anguish, in pleasant counterpoint as he gently began to make love to her.


And still the whining of the wheels

Sounds closest to the way I feel and

Winter comes, and winter goes,

And always has & will

Another hour, another day, another year

You pissed away

Remember walking in the rain?

I'm walking there still*

Angel switched off the radio, never shifting his attention from the black road and white line stretching out before him like his unending, hopeless existence. They'd be in LA in about two hours. Back where he belonged. The land of pretty surfaces and monstrous realities. The perfect place for a thing that looked like a man, but wasn’t one never would be.

He'd run from the restaurant, through the Sunnydale night, back to the mansion, no-one tried to stop him. He found Cordelia just about to leave to meet some old friends at the Bronze. He didn't tell her what had happened; she took one look into his eyes and knew better than to ask.

"We're going home," was all that he told her.

On the way he stopped off at the slaughterhouse on the edge of town to buy blood. The hunger he'd felt when he was with Buffy remained; he guzzled two quarts of pigs blood in the shadows outside before his nerves settled enough that he could get back into the car.

He drove, and brooded. Cordelia gave up trying to talk to him after awhile and listened to the radio, eventually nodded off in the seat next to him. He realized he was hungry again. And suddenly far too aware of the woman next to him, her warm breath misting the car window.

She was very close to her menstrual bleeding. It would be so easy to slip his hand down the front of her jeans, under her panties and inside her. To draw his hand out again, with rubies glistening on his fingertips…

He shook his head violently to clear the vivid image from his mind. What the hell was the matter with him?


*c. Johnette Napolitano "Days and Days"

END part 5

Next: Part 6, Nothing But Bad News



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